Nix proposed FL amendments with dogmatic social agenda

September 27, 2012 

Part two of four editorials on state constitutional amendments on the November 2012 ballot.

Florida's Legislature placed several amendments before voters that address ideological issues which have inspired heated debate across the nation among citizens of all political persuasions. The outcome on these three measures will reveal voter values and could alter the social landscape of the state.

Amendment 1

A purely political gesture, this measure attempts to void implementation of the individual mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. But this conflicts with the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution and will almost surely be ruled unconstitutional.

However, passage would ensure Florida could not adopt a Massachusetts-style health care law in the future, should the federal health care reform be repealed.

But this is political theater in a state with the second highest rate of uninsured residents. Tallahassee offers no health care alternatives with Gov. Rick Scott refusing billions in federal money to expand Medicaid to serve more poor and disabled residents.

With the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the individual mandate, this amendment will have no practical impact and only serves to determine voter views on the issue. It deserves to fail.

Amendment 6

Federal law already prohibits the expenditure of tax dollars for abortions, with exceptions in cases of rape, incest and threats to a mother's life. Florida law also bans public money to pay for abortions. Here again, passage would primarily show voter preference.

But the measure also exempts abortions from the state constitution's privacy clause. That clears the main roadblock to a parental consent law and opens the door to more restrictive abortion laws.

Previous attempts to circumvent the privacy clause, which voters inserted into Florida's constitution in 1980, were struck down by the state Supreme Court. The clause reads: "Every natural person has the right to be let alone and free from government intrusion into the person's private life." A woman's right to make her own health decisions could be lost under this amendment. We recommend a no vote.

Amendment 8

This measure would repeal Florida's 126-year-old "no aid" constitutional provision that bans public funding of religious institutions and organizations, a provision stronger even than the one in the U.S. Constitution.

Proponents promote the foggy notion that the amendment is designed to support the "delivery of non-sectarian social services by religious groups." But the real goal is future school voucher programs. The proposal would allow lawmakers to pass legislation permitting parents to send their children to religiously affiliated private schools at taxpayer expense, thus diverting money from public schools.

With the rapid expansion of publicly funded charter schools throughout Florida, this amendment would further drain resources away from public schools and harm education.

Taxpayers should not be forced to support religious institutions they find objectionable for whatever reason. The separation of church and state must be maintained. The "no aid" provision in the Florida Constitution should be maintained and this amendment rebuffed.

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